Saturday, October 03, 2009

Asymmetries of the Question

Taking a cue from Morris, who posits a deep connection between asymmetrical postures, openness and extroversion (Sense, pp. 164 ff.), let's provisionally categorize questions as either being symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical questions are exemplified by polar questions, though they include other types of presentation of either/or alternatives. Asymmetrical questions appear open-ended. They appear to transcend the horizon of the question considered as merely a more or less polite form of a request for information. They engage.

The asymmetrical question is grounded in an open posture. It arises as from a vulnerability, even as it negotiates a scaffolding that will support and inform noesis down the road ahead. Alternatively, the asymmetrical question leaps from the leap, comes to earth late in the process of questioning.

Does the asymmetrical question reflect the primitive condition of the question? Does the question initially spring from an asymmetrical posture or acture?

I'm assuming that a question arises from either a symmetrical or asymmetrical posture, and, secondarily, that it has either a symmetrical or asymmetrical form, which has its own shakiness as an assumption.

Regarding the secondary concern: How do we describe the commensurability of the question? Tacitly I have been assessing the symmetry of the question by balancing it against the answer. This is revealing. As argued previously, the question rather implies an answer or answerability, even in the form of refusals to answer. Answerability appears embedded in the horizon of the question, even as we acknowledge the delight people take in playing with unanswerable questions. Our assumptions then are all wrong?

So what is the question commensurate to? The request? Do we know the request well enough to measure the question against it? Is the question commensurate to the utterance in general? Dialogue? Are there, after all, dialogues without questions? (I've tried this, it's very off-putting.) So we face a conundrum of using questions without knowing what a question is, measuring the question ever provisionally, ever by a method open to questioning.

Does the aporetic arrive through an asymmetrical opening of the posture? Where does this lead? Do we ever, in questioning, pass beyond all measure?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:58 AM.


Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Do you suppose questions are only a linguistic affair? Or is a ponderance, a gesture, a look, a posture, also a question? I suppose if we consider language just more bahvior then yes?

If it's pretty obvious that the latter may be true, then are we not always in some way in the "state of questioning" - regardless of how we use our intellectual knife to split it up.....?? It seems to me that one cannot even put on his morning slippers without a question - nor take a breath, brush ones hair back, etc. etc.

Doesn't everything we do then, assume the question before hand?

In Douglas Adam's book, "The Ultimate Hitchhicker's Guide", a ship containing an Infinate Probablity Drive, (which is used to travel from one point to another) caused a adolesent Spern Whale to be called into existence over some distant planet. Of course, as it plumeted to the ground, the vary first thing it starts doing is asking questions..... It went as follows:

And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.

This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

Ah...! What's happening? it thought.

Er, excuse me, who am I?


Why am I here? What's my purpose in life?

What do I mean by who am I?

Calm down, get a grip now... oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It's a sort of... yawning, tingling sensation in my... my... well I suppose I'd better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let's call it my stomach.

Good. Ooooh, it's getting quite strong. And hey, what's about this whistling roaring sound going past what I'm suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that... wind! Is that a good name? It'll do... perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I've found out what it's for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What's this thing? This... let's call it a tail-yeah, tail. Hey! I can really thrash it about pretty good can't I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn't seem to achieve very much but I'll probably find out what it's for later on. Now-have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?


Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I'm quite dizzy with anticipation...

Or is it the wind?

There really is a lot of that now isn't it?

And wow! Hey! What's this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like... ow... ound... round... ground! That's it! That's a good name-ground!

I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

October 07, 2009 10:09 AM  
Blogger Yusef Asabiyah said...

"The asymmetrical question is grounded in an open posture. It arises as from a vulnerability, even as it negotiates a scaffolding that will support and inform noesis down the road ahead. Alternatively, the asymmetrical question leaps from the leap, comes to earth late in the process of questioning."

It may be the asymmetrical question is grounded in an open posture, but what is an open posture? What is vulnerability? How is it possible to protect one's own interpretation of these from what seems to be a nearly inevitable or insurmountable narcissism? Both of these terms (openness and vulnerability) seem to be narcissisms' self-flattery du jour recently.

"the asymmetrical question leaps from the leap" -is it possible to explain how you came up with this? This seems to be precisely the way I describe an asymmetrical question, but I don't think I would have come up with this elegant way of putting it-- I'm going to use it, if I may.

October 07, 2009 11:36 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, Andrew. Ponderances, gestures, looks and postures can indeed be questioning. Let's say they compose the question pragmatically, against multiple horizons of habit and expectation. This realm of concrete conduct and experience cannot be neatly separated from language without acute loss of meaning.

Have always been a fan of Douglas Adams.

I'll be looking at the raised eyebrow and possibly any connection to brain activation in Broca's area--or anywhere interesting--but so far it's hard for me to find any research up that alley.

October 08, 2009 6:33 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Yusef, greetings. Here is a description of tango styles that utilizes a distinction between open and closed postures. Just for the sake of curiosity. I'd thought "open posture" meant something like not crossing the arms or legs, but the way Morris uses the term it seems also to imply reaching, kind of like warrior posture in yoga. What is vulnerability besides our capacity to be wounded? The feeling we have of being in the leap, exposed to wonder? Well, you could easily sprain an ankle. An awkward picture that. That recognition of the possibility of klutziness should put a crimp in any narcissism arising "as if from vulnerability," though I imagine there are those that aren't bothered at all by it.

"The asymmetrical question leaps from the leap." Feel free to repeat it or interpret it as you will. I had something of the idea of the "breach" in mind, and I've been reading Kangas on Kierkegaard's instant. That's the background of that phrase. I'm happy to hear you say that it describes an asymmetrical question--sometimes I'm not sure if I make any sense at all.

October 08, 2009 7:34 AM  

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